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April 27, 2005

On Turning Off ...

This is TV Turn-Off Week. It must be; I learned about it on television.

There are three premises behind this event: we live in a media-saturated world, television is bad, and of course the first and last refuge for people who are trying to shove their totalitarian whims down your throat – “save the children.”

What a load of bullshit.

Television isn’t inherently evil. It wasn’t 50 years ago, when most markets had only two or three channels. It wasn’t when FCC commissioner Newton Minnow branded it a “vast wasteland,” before he took an advanced management position in broadcasting and started lauding the educational virtues of tired old British soap operas. Masterpiece Theat-ah is nothing more than Dallas with monocles.

And television certainly isn’t evil today. We have a great many genuinely educational programs around today on literally dozens and dozens of channels – a half dozen are named Discovery, plus History, History International, Science Channel, Learning Channel, blah blah blah. Plus there are zillions of hours of private pleasures to which we are entitled that are no better or no worse than most of the imported hankie-twisters on PBS.

Do these video book burners actually think people are going to turn off their teevees and start reading books that these social censors think are worthwhile? Dream on. We’ll hit the computers (television’s greatest competition), play games, go to movies, screw, play with their toy trains, eat more elaborate meals, and engage in other behavior we find entertaining.

I watched very little teevee as a child – cartoons and Jack Benny and that’s about it. I read a lot. I read biographies. I read non-fiction. I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Savage. But mostly I read a lot of comic books. You know, the stuff that, at the time, was supposed to turn me into such a juvenile delinquent I’d be worthy of my own short on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

And you know what? I became a political activist and I earned much of my living grinding out comic books. The first hit is always free, kids. So much for the virtues of reading over the evils of television.

Cars are evil. Million of people across the planet are killed and / or injured by car drivers each year. Instead of learning how to drive carefully, let’s just ban it. Alcohol – same thing. Besides, we had a dry run back in the 1920s, and we’re using the same strategies on our ultra-successful war on drugs. Kids are plundering the medicine chest for cheap thrills (just as they have been for decades), fine. Ban all drugs. Or maybe just stop using them for a week.

Or we can try something novel. We can try taking responsibility for our actions. Maybe these blowhards should help promote television they consider to be worthy. The could promote reading. But by establishing a “good vs. bad” dichotomy, they’re just revealing themselves as the pompous arrogant twits they truly are.

Posted by Mike Gold at 09:44 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

On Jerry Springer ...

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I enjoy listening to Jerry Springer.

Not his teevee show. With respect to that, I agree with Jerry Springer himself: it’s a stupid show, and people shouldn’t watch it.

Everybody on Air America is “pro-environment,” but Springer explains it to morons like me while, at the same time, puts it in a practical political context. Actually, his insight into political machinations is first rate while being accessible to the broadest possible open-mined audience.

When I listen to his show (Air America 9 AM to Noon Eastern, XM channel 167, internet radio www.airamericaradio.com), I am impressed with his common-person touch. He rarely preaches from high above – unlike some other folks on the same radio network. Of course, I’m sure Springer has met with more common-people than all his A-A cohorts combined, and his self-effacing style is a refreshing and vital addition to the genre of talk radio. He is respectful to and of his callers; that doesn’t make him unique (so is G. Gordon Liddy) but it does make him a better communicator than most.

Eight years ago Springer was hired by Chicago’s NBC teevee station to do on-air editorials, over the objections of anchors Carol Marin and Ron Magers. I had long admired both Marin and Magers, and I had worked on several stories with Magers. I understood their position: they thought the image of their show would be undermined by the image of The Jerry Springer Show. Even though as a First Amendment absolutist I was bothered by the attempt to deny Springer a platform, I agreed with their position that they didn’t have to stick around and be associated with a man whose work they despised. But now I think that, perhaps, they were a bit hasty. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

By the way, speaking of Internet radio… it appears that sometime this summer or fall, your bandwidth may be polluted with Weird Scenes – The Musical. Lucky you.

Posted by Mike Gold at 10:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

On The Fix …

Old-time political machine watchers develop a knack for spotting “the fix.” It really isn’t very hard to do. I’ll give you an example.

For the past nine days, various Vatican spin machines have been releasing stories their swell fellah in Germany, the now-former Joseph Ratzinger. Specifically, they’ve been smoothing over the fact that ol’ Cardinal Joe was, indeed, a member of the Hitler Youth Corp who graduated into manufacturing anti-aircraft guns.

It’s easy to understand why some people might find his history troublesome, particularly in light of his sainted (to-be, evidently) predecessor’s valiant and heroic stands against both the Nazis and the Soviets. So the spin machines started grinding out the word: he was 14, he was drafted, he was only following orders. Geez, you’d think he was the pope or something.

I can’t tell you how astonished I was to hear the man got the job within about a day of his big post-spin audition-mass.

Personally, Ratzinger’s promotion only has an aesthetic impact. I have no plans to go to Africa, perform first-aid on Africans, or go to bed with any Africans (and by “Africans,” of course, I mean “African-Africans”). So if Ratzinger thinks it’s his god’s will to promote the spreading of AIDs, well, I guess it’s cheaper and more energy-conscious than, say, transporting Africans to gas chambers.

As Pete Townshend said, “Meet the new boss … Same as the old boss.”

Posted by Mike Gold at 02:00 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

On Robots and Boy Jockeys

First I’ll share this Reuters story:

Qatar says robots to replace child camel jockeys

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar plans to start using robots as riders in popular camel races after international criticism of the use of child jockeys, the Gulf Arab state's official QNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

It said the robot, developed by an unnamed Swiss company, had been tested successfully and that the energy-rich country was considering setting up a factory to build them.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani, the official in charge of the project, referred to United Nations concern over child jockeys and said Qatar was determined to save camel racing, which is popular among Arabs of Bedouin origin.

Nearby United Arab Emirates has also announced plans to introduce remote-controlled robots, which can be light enough to use as jockeys in the lucrative sport.

Rights groups say several thousand boys, some as young as four, work as camel jockeys in the oil-rich Gulf, many after being abducted or sold by their families mainly from the Indian subcontinent.

They say the boys are kept in prison-like conditions and underfed to keep them light so the camels run faster.

Boy, this seems like a good deal, doesn't it? The boys were treated badly, so they're to be replaced by robots. Cool. And, then, the boys will be well-fed at last and brought into wealthy families and made princes? Or, perhaps, they’ll just be tossed on the shitpile?

What do you think?

Not all progress is progressive and sometimes – often – with the best of intent we screw things up all the more.

Posted by Mike Gold at 05:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

On Naivety (a continuing series) ...

As we all know (right?) the long-awaited musical comedy version of the 1930s paranoiafest favorite Reefer Madness premieres on Showtime this Saturday (April 16th) at 8 p.m., and will be rerun about 12 thousand times across the Viacom pay networks. It stars Alan Cumming – a.k.a. The X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Cabaret’s emcee, Kristen Bell and Christian Campbell, with the voice of Superman himself, Steven Weber, playing a drug “pusher.”

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Cumming said “What made the original film so funny was the ridiculousness of it, this authority figure pontificating on the so-called dangers around us. Now we’re actually living that.”

Can’t argue with that. But his co-star, Ms. Bell of UPN’s Veronica Mars, has spent her two dozen years on this planet in a fog. “It’s not anti-government,” Bell told the Daily News. “It’s not pro-government. It’s about thinking for yourself. It’s about not being a lemming, basically.”

Honey, that is the very essence of anti-government. Welcome to the Revolution.

Posted by Mike Gold at 10:48 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

April 07, 2005

On Separate But Sort Of Equal

In what they refer to as an historic vote, the Connecticut Senate passed a law permitting “civil unions” for gay couples. They refer to it as a gay rights bill, as though homosexuals were not entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. The bill passed by a three to one margin.

As if to reaffirm the state’s condemnation of homosexuals to second-class citizenry, Governor Jodi Rell said that if the bill were passed by the state House she would sign it into law – but only along with a bill that “affirmed” that marriage is something that can happen between a woman and a man.

On one hand it is important for all people to enjoy equal protection under the law, and homosexuals should no longer be denied those rights with respect to health and tax benefits and next-of-kin status. That means Billy can pull Timmy’s feeding tube, and that’s critical. One the other hand, it is an astonishing insult: if you agree that you are a sub-human degenerate, then and only then will we allow you the same rights as we hate-filled normals bestow upon each other. Oh, yeah, and sew this purple triangle onto all your garments.

“Here. Sign this confession, and we’ll stop torturing you” is a sorry excuse for legislative bigotry and religious oppression. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a nation where the rights of the minorities go unprotected. That’s what the Bill of Rights is all about, and without the Bill of Rights we literally could not have formed our nation. A majority of citizens cannot disenfranchise any minority: 51% or even 67% of the electorate cannot send the blacks back to Africa, take away the property of non-Christians (although, at one time, Jews were not permitted to own property in Ms. Rell’s own state), or chop off the hands of left-handed people.

Can someone please tell me exactly where it says a marriage can only be between a woman and a man? Our civil laws? The ones that say Negroes are only 3/5ths human? The ones that didn’t permit Chinese-Americans the vote until the 1930s? The ones that locked Japanese-Americans up in Concentration Camps during the 1940s? The ones that permit the police to search your house and grab your medical and library records without your knowledge? I’m not even certain you can find it there – not before this current hysteria started, and 18 states (and counting) have passed laws that would feed into Ms. Rell orgasm of hatred.

Nope. I’m told it’s in the bible. My response: not my bible, asshole. Get yours out of my face and mind your own business.

Posted by Mike Gold at 01:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 03, 2005

On Great Childhood Myths

When we were kids, some of us – at least some of us who were raised as boys – were told that masturbating would make us blind. I gather the intention was to frighten us away from such activities. This technique was as an ineffective means of masturbation control, and today the activity has grown to become accepted in many circles.

Well, perhaps these concerns were merely misplaced.

A study was released last week that indicated the use of Viagra® might lead to blindness. According to the BBC News, which is where you had to go to find any news last week:

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the US identified seven men who developed vision problems after taking Viagra.

The team, writing in The Journal of Neuro-ophthalmology, said it brought the total number of reported cases to 14.

But Pfizer, the makers of the drug which has been used by more than 20 million men since its launch in 1998, said the cases were a coincidence.

The seven men, aged between 50 and 69 years old, had all suffered from a swelling of the optic nerve within 36 hours of taking Viagra for erectile dysfunction.

Six experienced vision loss within 24 hours, although only one had problems with both eyes.

So kids, keep at it. You’re cool. Us old geezers, though, better watch it. We may be fucking ourselves blind after all.

Posted by Mike Gold at 06:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

On Being a Conservative

#1 – I believe government is owned by the electorate.

#2 – I believe the government has no business interfering in private matters.

#3 – I believe the government is there to protect us from each other in predatory matters.

#4 – I believe in the Constitution, including and most specifically the Bill of Rights, as a means of guaranteeing both the rule of the majority and the rights of all minorities.

#5 – I believe the government should act in stewardship for our common environment and is bound to protect it on behalf of the people both current and future, without respect to borders.

#6 – When it comes to protecting the common good, the government must play a limited role. It can advise us on health issues and other concerns that are beneath the big business profit bar, but it has no right to protect us from ourselves.

#7 – I believe the government has no business ramming any religious philosophy down anybody’s throat, and is Constitution-bound to respect every person’s individual religion philosophies and their lack of same.
#8 – The rights of the individuals are superior to the rights of big business.

#9 – The United States of America, by definition, has no right to empire building.

#10 – I believe that we cannot be free as a people unless each of us is free as individuals.

Posted by Mike Gold at 09:53 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack